I don't own Naruto.
Hello everyone. I'm sure all of you are surprised to find an update of this chapter being released today. It's been a long wait and for that I apologize. It's been so difficult getting past the writer's block I had on this story and I'm not fully convinced that it's over. Still I wanted to give you all a chapter. It's definitely not the best chapter I've written but its remotely better than anything I've come up with during all those months ago.
I must warn you though that I won't be posting a chapter every two weeks as I want to prepare the next few chapter in detail. I want to make sure that the chapters are up to standards and not some quickly written drivel. Any idea's or suggestions are welcome both in PM's or review.
Hope you like it.
Chapter 45: The return
Anko grunted loudly as she woke up to the blaring sound of her alarm clock. Not wanting to be submitted any longer to the irritating sound she climbed over to her side of the bed and almost destroyed the poor device by slamming her hand on the power button. Sighing, she immediately crawled back to the other side of the bed. 'Naruto's side' she thought sadly. She inhaled deeply trying to catch his scent but it had long dissipated from the sheets.
It had been almost three years since her student, best friend, lover, future husband and father of her children had gone on his training trip with the Toad Sennin, Jiraiya. Three long years had she woken up alone in the bed. It had been hard. Very hard to survive these three years and frankly she couldn't have done it without Kurenai and her team. When Naruto had just left, the first day she woke up alone in bed after so many months of waking up next to him, she had broken down and cried for hours. It was totally unlike her but she couldn't help it. She missed him.
Thankfully the three years had reached their end and she hoped that Naruto would come back soon. Three years without hearing from him was a hardship she hoped never to go through again. No, she did hear from him once. She opened the drawer of her nightstand and took out a worn scroll and opened it, reading the words that she already knew by heart. It was a message from Naruto, delivered by none other than the ruler of Yuki no Kuni, Princess Koyuki. Anko remembered the day she received the scroll like it was yesterday.
Naruto had been gone for almost a year and a half now and she still hadn't received any news or heard any rumors about him. Wherever he was, he was well hidden and stayed out of trouble. That was a good thing of course as the aim of this trip was to prepare Naruto for Akatsuki and to keep him under the radar. Still, she would have loved to hear from him or about him every once in a while. With Naruto gone, she had helped Kurenai and Team 8 out with training and the group training that they had started as well. Those Genin had become some of the strongest people she had ever seen.
Several of them had participated in the Chuunin exams and had been promoted to Chuunin. Neji, Lee, Hinata, Shino and Kiba were the first of the gang to become Chuunin. The rest of the gang soon followed after that. Anko and the other Jounin sensei were all very proud of their accomplishments but the newly promoted Chuunin weren't that enthusiastic. When asked why none of them felt the need to be proud and happy, they answered that Naruto wasn't there to celebrate with them and that they felt that no matter what, Naruto would always be the one that was miles ahead of them.
"Anko, you're wanted at the Hokage's office." Kurenai said bringing Anko out of her thoughts.
"What does she wants now?" Anko sighed. The woman had also been one of the many that had helped her through her difficult times but sometimes the woman was just too pushy. Anko knew she meant well but honestly, who wants to get hammered every single day?
"I don't know but you better get going." Kurenai said shrugging.
Anko nodded and made her way to the Hokage Tower. Along the way she was greeted with smile by most of the villagers. This was something that had started once it became known that she was in a relationship with Naruto and while she didn't really care about it anymore, she was still happy that she finally was treated with some kindness and respect. Reaching the Tower she passed the guards and secretary and entered the office.
"You called?" Anko asked her leader.
"Yes, I did." Tsunade smiled. "I'd like to introduce you to Kazahana Koyuki, princess and ruler of Yuki no Kuni."
Anko then noticed the woman standing in the office and recognized her from the movies. She was a bit surprised that an actress was also a princess but she had seen crazier things in her life. She was however on guard as she noticed the woman seizing her up as if she was making a decision about her. Something strange was going on here and she wanted to know what it was.
"It's a pleasure meeting you Anko-san." Koyuki said with a smile.
"Likewise, Kazahana-sama." Anko said politely; no need to piss of a princess by being rude after all.
"Please call me Koyuki, Anko-san." She smiled. "I have a feeling we'll be talking for a long time."
"Huh? Okay." Anko said wondering what the princess meant by that.
"Koyuki-san asked specifically for you Anko." Tsunade smiled already knowing what this was all about.
"I see." Anko said clearly not understanding.
"Let me explain." Koyuki said. "Until a few months ago, Yuki no Kuni was under the dictatorship of my uncle. Recently, I have taken back my country and things have changed for the better. Yuki no Kuni is slowly but surely recovering from years of isolation and bad leadership. We finally have started to heal and although it will take a few more years and a lot of effort, I believe that we can become a great country like Hi no Kuni."
"That's all very interesting Koyuki-san but what does this have to do with me?" Anko asked confused.
"I'm telling you all this because Yuki no Kuni couldn't have survived if it wasn't for a certain blond-haired, whiskered shinobi by the name of….." Koyuki smiled.
"NARUTO-KUN." Anko yelled out. "You saw him? How was he? Is he alright?"
"Anko, relax and listen to the story." Tsunade smiled. She understood Anko's reaction as she had done the exact same thing.
"Yes, I met Naruto." Koyuki said quickly. "He saved me and Yuki no Kuni. He's a hero beyond heroes, you are a very lucky woman Anko-san. I've never met anyone quite like him and while we didn't start of as friends, we got to know each other during the brief time he was in Yuki no Kuni. He and Jiraiya-sama defeated my uncle's army and destroyed his base, thus freeing my country from his grip."
"Naruto-kun did that?" Anko asked amazed. "He's gotten stronger then."
"We talked a lot about our lives and he always got a faraway look when he talked about Konoha." Koyuki continued. "He used to talk about his 'Anko-chan' and how much he missed her. When I told him that I would come to Konoha to promote my newest movie he asked me for a favor."
"A favor?" Anko asked her. "What kind of favor?"
Koyuki took out a scroll from her bag and gave it to Anko who accepted it with shaking hands. Anko smeared some blood on the seal and the scroll opened to reveal a written message. Anko walked to the other side of the office and started reading. Once she finished the letter, she broke down in tears and Tsunade rushed over to see if she was alright.
"Anko, are you okay ?" Tsunade asked concerned. "What did it say?"
"He loves me and misses me." Anko said with a brilliant smile. "He didn't say anything else but that. It's a letter to assure me how much he loves me."
"Like I said, you're a lucky woman Anko-san." Koyuki said with a little hint of jealousy. "Be sure to take good care of him, or someone might try to do it in your stead."
"Don't worry about that, Kazahana-sama." Anko said briskly understanding the princess' words. "I know exactly how lucky I am."
"Good then I hope we can be friends." Koyuki said smiling.
Anko pressed the scroll to her heart and chuckled when she remembered what had happened afterwards. Koyuki had told her to go watch the movie with all of Naruto's friends and family. She was also instructed to watch until the very end of the credits, which would have a small surprise for her as well. Anko nodded and thanked Koyuki for everything. Later that night Anko and friends all went to see the movie, thanks to Koyuki giving them first seat tickets, and throughout the movie Anko couldn't help but wonder what the surprise was. Once the credits finally started rolling over the screen, she ordered everyone to stay seated and watch for the surprise. Then suddenly a message appeared on the screen.
'The people of Yuki no Kuni would like to thank their heroes, Namikaze Naruto and Jiraiya of the Sannin. Without their help Yuki no Kuni would still be a place of despair and without hope for a better future. Our heroes gave us back our princess, our hope, our country and our future. For this the people of Yuki no Kuni will forever be indebted to them. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.'
The message disappeared and an image of a laughing Naruto and a disgruntled Jiraiya appeared. Anko watched with tears at how her lover had changed. He looked older and a lot stronger. His blue eyes and smile however hadn't changed at all, something for which Anko was very grateful.
Needless to say the others were very surprised and happy to hear news from Naruto. Kiba had cursed saying that Naruto was now the hero in two countries and that he would have to find a country of his own to save, just so that Naruto didn't get too far ahead. Everyone had laughed at that.
Deciding that she wouldn't accomplish much today if she stayed in bed, Anko got up and quickly took a shower. She might as well go and see what Kurenai was up to. If she stayed at home, she would only get depressed again. Closing the door behind her she made her way over to the training area where the teams still had their daily training schedule together. She wondered what Naruto was doing right now.
"Come on, Ero-Sennin." Naruto complained loudly. "Man, your old age is catching up to you. Could you be any slower?"
"Could you be any more annoying?" Jiraiya bit back. "What's gotten into you? You've been pumped up ever since we got back into Hi no Kuni."
"Like you don't know." Naruto said. "I want to go home. We've been gone for three years already."
"You just want to go back to your girlfriend." Jiraiya said with a lecherous smirk.
"And you're a pervert." Naruto answered but he didn't deny what his sensei had said. "But yes, I want to see Anko-chan. I missed her, okay?"
"Relax Gaki, we should get to Konoha by the end of the day." Jiraiya smiled. Really, he understood why Naruto was so anxious to go home. The past three year had changed both of them. Naruto most of all of course. The young shinobi was a carbon copy of his father and Jiraiya was equally proud of Naruto. The boy had surpassed his wildest expectations and more. While there were still some things that he needed to teach Naruto about being a Toad summoner, he had no doubt that Naruto would be able to hold his own against a lot of shinobi. He wondered who win in a match between a seventeen year old Minato and a seventeen year old Naruto. It would be a match of epic proportions, he was sure of that.
During their training Naruto had been focused on getting stronger and faster while learning new jutsu. The result was a well rounded shinobi that would be able to fight in near well any situation. Together the two had trained Naruto in speed, strength and stamina. Naruto could now hold his own against Jiraiya as long as the Toad Sennin didn't fight without holding back. If he was to make a guess, Jiraiya figured that Naruto was about the same level as an Jounin like Kakashi and Gai. Still, the boy had a lot to learn before he would be able to defeat Kakashi or Gai in single combat. Experience came with age and was something invaluable to a shinobi.
Looking at Naruto's back he couldn't help but see Minato and Kushina in the boy. It was scary how well he resembled both of them. The outside was all Minato, just like his abilities with Jutsu making and Fuinjutsu. Personality wise, he was a lot more like his mother. Stubborn at moments, passionate, a heart of gold and willing to give everyone a chance. That was what Naruto received from his mother's side. He was the perfect blend of his parents and Jiraiya wouldn't want it any other way. He looked forward at how Konoha would react to his pupil's return. That and the prospect of seeing some of Konoha's beauties made him hurry after Naruto.
Tsunade had just returned from a council meeting and she was dead tired. She was glad that the reformation of the council had worked out so well. Hideki and her sensei were the perfect leaders of each council and they dealt with the more daily stuff so that she could concentrate on the more important things. That didn't mean that she didn't have to deal with some troublesome and irritating stuff but at least it was far less than that what the Sandaime had told her.
This meeting had been about the evaluation of the Konoha Shinobi Academy. Over the past three years they had reformed the Academy by using Naruto's suggestions, which he had made when Tsunade had become Hokage. It had been a long term project and it was reaching completion. During the first year, they had slowly introduced the last year students to D-rank missions under guidance of retired shinobi. That had been a major success on several levels. First, the Genin hopefuls learned a lot and they got a first glimpse at what it meant to be a shinobi. They learned to work together and the retired shinobi were only too happy to be of service to the village. Secondly, it was also good for the village, as the money that they usually had to pay the Genin could be used for other things, like strengthen their defenses.
In the second year, they introduced several new courses in the curriculum. Now students would be introduced to courses like Medical Ninjutsu, Interrogation and Torture, Strategic and Tactical Thinking, and so on. These classes were not only available to academy students but to everyone who wanted to follow them. And it had been a great success as a lot of Genin, Chuunin and even Jounin had become interested in one or more of the classes.
Now, in the last year they had changed the introduction course to full blown courses. Academy students who had dreams of becoming a Medic-Nin would have a different curriculum than normal students as they would have courses in the hospital and work there several hours in the week. Students with interest in being an interrogator would be taught psychology and be apprenticed to Ibiki or another interrogator.
"Tsunade-sama, how did the meeting go?" Shizune asked her long time mentor.
"Surprisingly, things went well." Tsunade said relaxing. "Most of them were very impressed with the results and voted for a continuation of the program. Makes sense though, you could hardly argue with the numbers Iruka provided. Over the past three year, we have lost less Genin than ever before. We have an increase in Genin who pass their Chuunin exam on the first time. The reforms have shown their potential and everyone was excited to say the least."
"And the fact that our mission numbers have gone up after every Chuunin Exam helps as well, I imagine." Shizune smiled.
"Yes, there's that as well." Tsunade sighed. "But it's also cause for worry."
"What do you mean?" Shizune asked surprised.
"It means that if we continue flaunting our newly found strength, we'll get in trouble with the other villages." Tsunade explained. "Ever since the last great shinobi war, the hidden village have been in a state of disarming. We've managed to keep the peace because all of us remained at the same level for quite a while. Now however, Konoha is producing a lot more Genin and the number of active shinobi is on the rise for the past three years. This will not remain undiscovered. One day, one of the other villages will start getting suspicious and who knows what will happen then."
"But it's not like we're growing our force to start a war or something." Shizune argued.
"You and I know that, but do you think they'll believe us if we explained that?" Tsunade sighed. "No, it's better that we slow down a bit and that's why I introduced a new motion."
"What motion?" Shizune wanted to know.
"As of this year, all Genin must have at least one year of active duty before they can participate in the Chuunin exams." Tsunade said. "Also, there will only be a fixed number of Genin that will be allowed to participate in the exam."
"That's kind of unfair to those who aren't allowed to enter." Shizune frowned a bit.
"I know but those that aren't allowed one year are automatically selected to participate in the next exams." Tsunade explained. "It's the only way I can think of to stop alienating the other villages. Can you image what would happen if Iwa or Kumo declare war once more. I don't know about you but I for one, don't want that to happen."
Shizune silently agreed with her mentor. A war was the last thing Konoha needed right now; dealing with Akatsuki and Orochimaru was more than enough. She didn't want to think about what would happen if that man formed another alliance with a village in order to destroy Konoha. It had ended well last time but they might not be so lucky again. Deciding to change the subject she asked about the one person that could always cheer Tsunade up.
"So, any news from Naruto-kun?" Shizune asked smiling as she saw Tsunade's face lit up.
"As a matter of fact, yes." She nodded. "Jiraiya sent me a message with a Toad not even a few hours ago. It seems they're on their way back."
"Really? Have you notified Anko?" Shizune said happily.
"No, not yet." Tsunade shook her head. "I don't want to bring her hope up; when Naruto gets here, the first thing he'll do is look for her."
Shizune giggled at the thought of Naruto turning Konoha upside down in search for Anko. She wouldn't be surprised if it actually happened as everyone knew how much those two loved each other. The reunion would be a sight to see, that was sure. Still, it was getting pretty late and she hoped that they would be back before nightfall. No shinobi liked traveling at night.
Meanwhile, Anko was filling in for Kurenai with physical training Team 8. Kurenai had a doctor's appointment that afternoon so she volunteered to babysit. Team 8 however, didn't have much to look forward to as Anko's training was always much harder than Kurenai's. Anko just ignored any complaints headed her way and ordered them to do another ten laps around the village. While laughing at their shocked faces, Anko couldn't help but feel that something was going to happen. She had no idea how right she was.
Naruto smiled brightly when the outer walls of the village came into sight. He was almost home. Deciding to ditch the old man behind him, he sped up and ran straight at the gate of Konoha. Jiraiya let him, knowing there was no way he could stop the blond now. Still, he didn't want to miss the triumphant return of the heroes so he too, started running and soon caught up with his second pupil. He even got excited being back as well.
At the gate, the ever faithful duo Kotetsu and Izumo were standing guard. One they saw two figures headed their way, they were on alert and ready for anything. But when they saw the familiar blond haired shinobi, followed by one of the most legendary shinobi to ever leave Konoha they relaxed knowing that it wasn't a threat. They waited patiently for them to arrive so they could greet and welcome them back. They didn't expect to be ignored by both of them however.
"Hey Kotetsu, Izumo. Good seeing you again. Bye." Naruto yelled when he passed by.
"Hey, you two. Could you inform Tsunade we're back?" Jiraiya said at the same time.
"The fuck?" the duo exclaimed. "They just ran straight past us. How rude."
Nonetheless, they did as they were told and send a messenger to inform the Hokage of their return. They didn't want to be the ones who failed to tell Tsunade that Naruto was back. That would be a one way ticket with Tsunade Air™ over the Hokage monument. They had seen it happen before and the several weeks of rehabilitation were enough to scare anyone into doing what they were told. That and never wake her up when she had been drinking.
Anko was madly crackling at Team 8 who were slumped down on the ground after completing the training Anko had made them do. By now, Kurenai had joined them again and she was shaking her head at Anko's antics. Though she was used to it, seeing Anko behave like that showed her that the woman was having a hard time. Every time she was feeling lonely or sad, she would revert to her old persona of a crazy snake lady, as the people used to call her.
Anko was laughing but inside she felt lonely. She missed her lover, and waking up and then reading the scroll made it only harder for her. Suddenly she felt herself being lifted off the ground and a pair of arms snaked around her, hugging her close. Before she could act or push the arms away, she felt a pair of lips on hers. Normally, she would kill any man that kissed her but the kiss told her everything she needed to know about the identity of her attacker. There was only one man who kissed her like that and that was Naruto. She hungrily responded and kissed him back while hugging him closely. Her loneliness forgotten, she held him close making sure he was really back.
Team 8 and Kurenai, who had been ready to kick ass, relaxed when they too recognized the blond assailant. Not a few seconds later, Jiraiya arrived with Tsunade and the rest of gang behind him. How everyone had already heard of their return was a mystery but here they were. Everyone looked on at how the two lovers were finally reunited after three long years. They waited for several minutes, not wanting to disturb them but when they showed no sign of stopping, Tsunade opened her mouth.
"Hey brat, how long do you intend to keep us waiting?" she yelled but everyone could hear her emotions.
"Hey there, Baa-chan." Naruto said when he finally separated from Anko's lips. He smirked at Tsunade's face when he called her that name again but knew she wouldn't be mad about it.
"Ha, still that impolite, immature little brat you used to be." Tsunade snorted.
"And you're still using that fake Genjutsu to cover the fact that you're old." Naruto answered still holding Anko close to him.
"Why you little…" Tsunade growled and grabbed him in a headlock before she pulled him in a hug. "It's good to see you again."
"It's good to see you too." Naruto replied in the hug. "It's good to be back. I was getting tired of Ero-Sennin's snoring."
"Hey, I do not snore." Jiraiya yelled loudly but everyone was too busy laughing to notice.
Naruto then turned to the rest of the gang and greeted them. With Anko still holding on to him, he had a great time listening to their stories even though they had to be cut down into quick summaries. When he finally noticed Kurenai he smiled brightly and gently hugged her.
"Kurenai-sensei, I see Asuma-sensei finally got the nerve to ask you out." He smiled. "Congratulations on the baby."
"Thank you Naruto-kun." Kurenai smiled placing a hand on her stomach. "But Asuma wasn't the one who took the first step."
"Yeah, you should have seen his face when Kurenai grabbed him by the collar and kissed him." Anko laughed and everyone joined in. "He didn't know what was happening and he fainted straight after she let go of him."
"Hey, I was surprised okay." Asuma said trying to defend himself. "Give a man a break, will you?"
"Don't worry Asuma-sensei, I understand." Naruto smiled before turning serious. Before anyone could blink Naruto disappeared from Anko's side and appeared next to Asuma with his sword drawn and aimed at his lower region. "I trust you to take good care of her and the baby. If you do anything to hurt her, I won't hold back."
Everyone was shocked at the speed at which Naruto had moved, even if the distance was relatively small. For most of them the speed was too high to follow and that meant something. When Asuma assured that he would take absolute care of his family, Naruto clapped him on the shoulder congratulating him once more. Naruto then started to answer some of his former teammate's questions while the others stood aside discussing with Jiraiya.
"Jiraiya, what the hell did you teach Naruto." Asuma said softly still shocked from before.
"Oh you know, this and that." Jiraiya shrugged smiling but turned serious when he saw Tsunade glare at him. "Ahem, well to be honest Naruto pretty much taught himself. At the beginning I focused on teaching him to be my successor so I introduced him to my spy network while traveling. During our travels he worked on pretty much everything, Taijutsu, Kenjutsu, Ninjutsu, Fuinjutsu you name it he worked on it."
"How strong do you think he is?" Tsunade wanted to know.
"Honestly, I have no idea." Jiraiya said sheepishly. "Let me explain, Naruto and I often sparred and fought some very strong enemies during the three years. During our spars however, I noticed that he always held back, because he knew it was just a spar. During real fights however, his potential and abilities rise to unknown levels. It's then that he shines the brightest; his brain goes into overdrive and he adapts during the fight."
"If you had to guess, what rank would you give him?" Sarutobi asked his pupil.
"Jounin for sure." Jiraiya said without a doubt. "He has the strength and the abilities; all he needs is experience but that comes naturally. As he is right now, he has gained a lot of experience fighting stronger opponents but he still needs to learn to lead a team."
"I see." Sarutobi said feeling immensely proud of his adoptive grandson.
"Alright, let's head for the tower and then you two can debrief me." Tsunade said with authority.
"Forgive me Tsunade-sama but I would like to spend the evening with my fiancé." Anko said. "It's been three years and I think we both deserve to have our first night together without having to debrief for several hours. I promise you that we'll come by the first thing in the morning but please, allow me to take him home for now."
"Very well Anko, I guess I can understand that." Tsunade sighed but she smiled at the woman. "I want you two to be in my office first thing in the morning, understood?"
Anko nodded before walking over to Naruto who was still listening to his friends adventures and she grabbed him in a hug. She whispered in his ear to take home and Naruto happily nodded. He quickly wished everyone goodnight and told them that they would see each other in the next few days. He picked Anko up in bridal style and left the clearing at high speed, jumping over the rooftops and through the trees until he reached the familiar home of his parents. He smiled brightly at the woman in his arms and kissed her. He was home.